Thursday, May 13, 1999 Published at 05:37 GMT 06:37 UK
Smoker sues hospital
If it gets to court, this will be the first case of its kind
A smoker is suing two NHS trusts, claiming they delayed treating his potentially fatal heart condition because of his habit.
Mike Sale, a former nurse, claims he was discriminated against because he smoked in what is thought to be the first case of its kind in the UK.
The case starts on Thursday.
Mr Sale, from Old Goole in East Yorkshire, says he first experienced heart problems after climbing a mountain in the Lake District and running a half-marathon in May 1992.
But, he says, the hospitals were negligent by delaying the quadruple by-pass surgery he needed.
He underwent the complex operation in March 1994 after Harley Street specialists told him that his life was in danger if he was not treated immediately.
By that stage, a tobacco company had paid for Mr Sale to be treated privately.
Spokesmen for the smokers' rights group Forest and the anti-smoking group action on Smoking and Health said that if the case was not settled before reaching court it would be the first such civil action.
A similar case in Southampton was settled out of court without the hospital accepting any liability.
The director of ASH said the group's position on the issue of discrimination was clear.
Clive Bates said: "If a patient is refused treatment simply because they are a smoker, then we don't agree with that.
"But if the decision not to treat is clinical - that is, if the doctors believe the operation will fail - then that is justified.
"However, because of the damage they do to their bodies', smokers are more likely not to benefit from an operation."
The case will be heard at Pontefract County Court in West Yorkshire and is expected to last two days.